At the Chamber of Commerce, we know a thing or two about networking. In fact, it’s one of our favorite ways to meet new people and reconnect with old acquaintances. But for a young professional or even the more introverted of us, the term “networking” can feel a bit weighty.
We compiled a few of our best networking tips you should think about, whether you’re just starting to make business contacts or simply looking to polish your social skills.
(Psst… When you finish reading, RSVP to our next Business After Hours to try out your new tricks.)
- Show Up Early (And Stay Late): Arriving “Fashionably late” is best saved for birthday parties and family get-togethers, not for networking events. Arriving a few minutes early lets you ease into conversations as people arrive, instead of trying to infiltrate a clique that has already formed. Staying late has a similar effect. As people start to dwindle, you will have the chance to talk to anyone who may have been unable to break away to talk to you during the peak of the event.
- Focus on Fostering: It can be tricky, but try to remember that, while the goal is to foster business relationships, it’s a lot more about the relationship than the business. People can tell when you’re only out for a favor, so it’s important to spend time and effort building a relationship with that person, not just a business connection. Which brings us to…
- Listen: Being a great listener will do you good in every area of your life, including at your next networking happy hour. Making people feel important is a priceless advantage to making new connections, and listening is the easiest way to achieve that goal. Be careful to not take control of the conversation, especially with a person who could be vital to your business. Instead, take the extra time to listen to them and you’ll solidify the connection.
- Get out of Your Comfort Zone: While networking within your own industry is a crucial aspect to helping you grow in your field, networking in other areas and industries is a phenomenal way to gain knowledge and get inspired. Networking is not just about collecting business cards and cashing in favors down the road, it’s about creating a diverse network of contacts across industries who can offer insight, new ideas and genuine conversation that can help one another advance in new ways.
- Ask Great Questions: Thoughtful and meaningful questions are one of the easiest ways to help put together a network of genuine, insightful people from inside your industry and beyond. Getting to know people through a meaningful exchange will leave both of you feeling better about the conversation and the relationship to follow.
- Follow Up: It may seem obvious, but it’s a step that far too many people forget. Networking opportunities are great chances to plant the seed of a great relationship, but following up with an email, a dinner invitation, or a phone call are the necessary cultivators to turn a seed into a fully-grown business relationship.